What is a programme?

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The Lisbon Recognition Convention has a clear and relevant definition of a programme:

“A programme refers to a higher education curriculum leading to a degree. It has co-ordinated elements (courses). The completion of a programme provides the student with a higher education qualification.”[1]

A detailed definition has been proposed by UNESCO’s International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED):

“A coherent set or sequence of educational activities designed and organized to achieve pre-determined learning objectives or accomplish a specific set of educational tasks over a sustained period. Within an educational programme, educational activities may also be grouped into sub-components variously described in national contexts as ‘courses’, ‘modules’, ‘units’, and/or ‘subjects’. A programme may have major components not normally characterized as courses, units, or modules – for example, play-based activities, periods of work experience, research projects and the preparation of dissertations.”[2]

From both definitions it will be clear that a programme refers to teaching and learning activities.

See also


  1. Council of Europe, (1997) Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region. Lisbon, p. 4.
  2. UNESCO. 2011. International Standard Classification of Education, p. 79. http://www.uis.unesco.org/Education/Pages/international-standard-classification-of-education.aspx